|Senator Fontana participated in the March for Our Lives rally on Saturday in downtown Pittsburgh. The march and rally, organized by local students, was one of many that took place throughout the country, demanding common sense gun reforms. The Pittsburgh event started at the City-County Building before participants marched down Fifth Avenue to Market Square where the rally took place. I was proud of all the young people who organized and spoke so passionately and articulately on the issues.
Package of Bills to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
About seven million women are raped or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner each year. Not to mention that children are particularly vulnerable as both victims of and witnesses to domestic violence, with approximately 15.5 million children exposed to domestic violence every year. Understanding that the commonwealth’s laws need to change to better protect victims, the Pennsylvania Senate passed numerous bills last week addressing some of the loopholes.
The following legislation unanimously passed the Senate and is heading to the House of Representatives for consideration:
Senate Bill 313 (SB 313) – The bill would allow a court to grant the termination of a shared phone plan between a victim and abuser when a final Protection from Abuse is ordered.
Senate Bill 500 (SB 500) – Under this legislation, the police, sheriff or court-approved law enforcement officials would be required to accompany a plaintiff to their residence before or during the service of a Protection from Abuse order. A court would mandate the service if a plaintiff feels their safety may be at risk.
Senate Bill 501 (SB 501) – Currently, after a final Protection from Abuse order, it is at the judge’s discretion whether an individual has to forfeit their weapons. If this is the case, an abuser has up to 60 days to turn his/her weapons over to a third-party which includes friends and family members outside of the abuser’s household. According to the Pennsylvania State Police, this occurs about 14 percent of the time.
This bill would require the relinquishment of all guns by individuals who are the subject of PFA orders and it must be done within 24 hours. The legislation also dramatically shortens from 60 days to 48 hours the time defendants convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence must surrender their guns and it changes the law so that the weapons are given to a registered gun dealer or a licensed attorney.
Senate Bill 502 (SB 502) – The legislation extends any existing Protection from Abuse order for 90 days after the defendant has been released from incarceration. Additionally, the measure removes the requirement that a victim be required to show the defendant engaged in a new threatening act to gain this protection.
Senate Bill 919 (SB 919) – The legislation would allow a tenant of a county housing authority who is a victim of domestic violence or sexual violence to be relocated to another apartment under the control of the county housing authority or in another county housing authority. If this is not possible, the victim would receive a referral to a local victim advocacy organization for housing assistance.
Separate from domestic violence, but still focusing on helping victims:
Senate Bill 1011 (SB 1011) – This bill would establish a crime victims’ Bill of Rights within the Pennsylvania Constitution to ensure that victims of violent crimes be treated with respect and dignity by the criminal and juvenile court systems. Specifically, the constitutional right of crime victims of all proceedings involving the accused; crime victims would be heard in any proceeding involving the accused and the victim during which the right of the victim is implicated; notice of any release or escape of the accused; full and timely restitution; and the right to confer with prosecutors during criminal justice proceedings. It’s important to note that since this is a constitutional amendment, the legislation would have to be passed in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and then placed on a ballot for public referendum.
If signed into law, it would be referred to as “Marsy’s Law,” named for Marsalee “Marsy” Nichols, a college student in California who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend. A week after Marsy was murdered, her parents walked into a grocery store after visiting their daughter’s grave and were confronted by the accused murderer. The family had no idea the accused murderer had been released on bail.
The following bill is headed to receive Governor Wolf’s signature:
Senate Bill 449 (SB 449) – This legislation clarifies that magistrate district judges may, in cases of domestic violence, use a risk assessment tool to determine whether a defendant poses a danger to a victim when determining bail.
When signed into law, this bill will be known as “Tierne’s Law,” for Tierne Ewing, a Washington County woman who was kidnapped and murdered in 2016 by her estranged husband. Tierne’s ex-husband was granted bail, following an arrest for domestic violence and other offenses, instead of having his bail raised or revoked as suggested by the prosecutor due to the husband’s violent history of abuse.
All Senate offices will be closed on Friday, March 30 in observance of Good Friday. My offices will re-open on Monday, April 2 as scheduled.
Upcoming Shredding Events
I want to alert everyone about two upcoming shredding events. On Saturday, April 7, together with Representative Dan Deasy and Green Tree Borough, we are hosting a shredding event in the parking lot at Green Tree Park from 9 a.m. – noon. Then on Saturday, April 14, along with Rep. Deasy and Crafton and Ingram Borough officials, we are hosting a shredding event in the parking lot at Crafton Park from 9 a.m. – noon.
Documents at both events will be shredded on-site by a reputable and bonded company. Also, all papers must be loose, no binder clips or paper clips, and documents cannot be in binders.
With consumer fraud and identity theft continuing to be an issue, we are hosting these events to not only to raise awareness and promote prevention, but also to provide individuals with the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed free of charge. You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.
Community Conservation Partnerships Program Grants
The PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) is accepting applications for Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants. Funding comes from the Keystone Fund, which is generated from a portion of the realty transfer tax, the Environmental Stewardship Fund; the ATV/Snowmobile Fund generated through fees for licenses, and federal monies. Grants benefit:
- Planning, acquisition, and development of public parks
- Recreation areas
- Motorized and non-motorized trails
- River conservation and access
- Stream buffers
- Conservation of open space
The 2018 grant application round will close on April 11. Funds will be awarded for applications that meet priorities established in the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. More information on applying can be found by clicking here.
Did You Know…
Did you know that since being established in 1993 the Keystone Fund has helped fund more than 300 trail projects, more than 2,400 community park development projects, and has helped conserve 117,400 acres?
Cleanup Brookline Event
The South Pittsburgh Development Corporation is hosting “I Love a Clean Brookline,” a spring cleanup event on Saturday, April 14. Everyone will be gathering at 8 a.m. at the Brookline Teen Outreach Center prior to the cleanup. Participants will be picking up trash, mulching and planting flowers throughout Brookline. Lunch is being donated to all volunteers afterward by The Brookline Pub. Anyone interested in volunteering can R.S.V.P. on the SPDC Facebook page. Questions can be emailed to SPDC.Brookline@gmail.com.
Walk for One Promise
The Pittsburgh Promise promotes high educational aspirations among urban youth, funds scholarships for post-secondary access, and fuels a prepared and diverse regional workforce. The Pittsburgh Promise depends on the generosity of our community to ensure educational opportunities for Pittsburgh's kids.
On Saturday, April 21, 2018, you can help them provide scholarships to deserving Pittsburgh students by joining their 5K Walk for One Promise to raise awareness and essential scholarship funds. Visit www.pittsburghpromise.org/walk for more information and to sign up!
The last time Easter fell on April 1, which is April Fools’ Day was in 1956. Due to the quirks involved in dating Easter against the Gregorian calendar, the two coincide only intermittently. After 2018, the next one is 2029, and then again in 2040, but after that, not again in this century.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212